Your correspondent, Geraint Day (Adver, January 2, 2013) makes a pertinent point in referring to the element of secrecy surrounding the amount of money paid to Council employee Mr Patel. His appraisal of the council’s use of the Freedom of Information Act is also most enlightening, particularly its use by officers to delay answering simple questions.

Of equal interest is the council’s fall back position of claiming commercial confidentiality whenever a question is asked about an ‘arms length’ organisation, Capita or work undertaken by consultants.

All too frequently councillors and officers forget that it was taxpayer funds which paid for the reports and advice and as such taxpayers should have a reasonable expectation of disclosure.

The council leader, Coun Rod Bluh is on record as saying: “We know people do not feel informed about where the money is spent, the issues concerned and how to influence decisions. I am passionate about facing these as openly and constructively as possible.”

What he failed to say was that any decision to be ‘open and constructive’ is made solely on his terms. I am sure the taxpaying residents of Swindon can determine the difference between pious words and positive action – I suspect 2013 will continue in much the same vein as the past few years with Coun Bluh always being right, while the rest of us will always be classified by him and his sycophantic colleagues as the negative element within the town.

Des Morgan Caraway Drive Swindon

Double standards

One major point I need to ask is why is the redundancy package being given to Hitesh Patel any different than any other package following goverment guidelines being given to any of the poor thousands of people being made redundant at this time of year? It’s bad enough at any other time of year.

So if the figures are true Mr Patel can expect a payout of anything up to £260,224 for how long his service is (this is not mentioned – another secret). lf the average hard working man or woman in the street is made redundant they would have had to work for over 200 years to get anywhere near this sort of package. Redundancy is redundancy; follow the laid down goverment guidelines. If Mr Patel has served for two years pay him one week’s pay per year, the same as any other person being made redundant.

J Crook Haydon Wick Swindon

Not very festive

What a very unChristmassy town Swindon was.

The tree at Wharf Green was a good size but it needed brighter lights, like the one at the Outlet Village. There was no atmosphere at Wharf Green whatsoever. There weren’t even any carols being played on the big screen The shops were a big disappointment, hardly any decorations. I went to Debenhams for coffee and there were absolutely no decorations at all in the restaurant.

One shop that was a joy to go into was Rymans, the stationery shop. The ladies had made the effort to dress up in lovely seasonal sweaters and earrings and were very jolly. Well done to them all.

So for heaven’s sake Go Swindon, earn the huge amount we pay you. And Swindon Council – pull your finger out and do something for the town next time (if you are still in charge). Use the space outside Debenhams where you get the footfall.

Mrs L Townsend Redcliffe Street Swindon

Marriage defined

It is the dictionary, not the church (as suggested by Robert Barnard – Letters, December 31), that defines marriage as ‘the union between a man and a woman’.

Furthermore, this is the universal understanding of the word – across all religions and in all countries. When a man and a woman are married, whether in a church or elsewhere, it is the ‘civil marriage’ that is important so far as the State is concerned – for it gives both parties certain legal rights. At present, two people of the same sex can enter into a ‘civil partnership’ that gives each of them the same legal rights as married people. Thus, there is no need for the proposed legislation which, incidentally, was not mentioned by any political party during the last general election.

Malcolm Morrison Prospect Hill Swindon

Bury it elsewhere

It seems the agreement to begin the building of the next generation of nuclear power stations has been held up because there is indecision about where to site burial spots for high level radioactive waste.

As Britain is so overcrowded and local authorities reject applications for proposed burial sites then it might be a consideration for countries other than Britain for the long term stable storage of nuclear waste.

N Gardner Carlisle Avenue, Swindon